Marsha Lenz: In Honor of the Seafarer, June 27, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Marsha Lenz

Aboard NOAA ship Oscar Dyson

 June 8-28, 2017


Appropriate attire is important for fishing.

Mission: MACE Pollock Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: June 27, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge


Sorting fish requires teamwork.

Latitude: 55 42.0 N

Longitude: 156 16.4 W

Time: 1000

Visibility: 6 Nautical Miles

Wind Direction: 199

Wind Speed: 11 Knots

Sea Wave Height: 3-4 foot swell

Barometric Pressure: 1002.4 Millibars

Sea Water Temperature: 9.4°C

Air Temperature: 10°C

Science and Technology Log

For the science/technology part of the blog, I usually focus on one part of the sciences that we are participating in every day, a piece of technology on the boat, or one specific career that one of the 31 people on board have. Today, however, I’d like to share the big picture of how the science, the careers, and the technology all interact and intersect with each other. I have spent countless hours in the Acoustics lab, in the Fish lab, on the Bridge, and in the Chem lab with a diverse group of extremely skilled and talented people. Here’s what I have witnessed over and over again: They is constantly troubleshooting, coding, and then creating a product/outcome.

For example, let’s just take a look at the Fish lab. (Almost) everything in the lab was designed and created by the NOAA team of scientists for the specific purpose of collecting data on pollock populations. They did not buy the software anywhere. They created it. Over the past three weeks, I have witnessed, on an on-going basis, the scientists in the lab, create, refine, and test their codes for the various programs that they use for their data entry and end of survey reports.


Abigail created a code to illustrate how many otoliths were caught on each transect.

Just yesterday, Abigail created a new code to create a chart that shows how many otoliths were collected from each transect line. This part of the program had not yet been made, so she did it. This is something that happens throughout the day, all day long.


When the team needed a quick way to measure and record the lengths of the fish (using a ruler and writing down every length on a piece of paper and then recording that into the computer database took a long time!), they designed AND created the Ichthystick. This records the length of each fish electronically, and then it enters that data directly into the database. It saves a lot of time. They even put my name into the system as one of the scientists!

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The list of things that the scientists create goes on and on: from charts, to computer programs, to the equipment that they use to collect the data. It was a really important reminder for me of how essential teaching coding and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) is in the classroom. Unfortunately, with budget cuts, it’s often hard for schools, especially very rural ones, to integrate these topics into the daily classroom routine. I really want to ensure that my students have the skills and knowledge to continue in the sciences so that they, too, can have careers that allow them to use their creativity and intelligence, meet great people, and use these abilities to help protect and care for the planet we live on.

Personal Log


Though there were some gray days, the views still brought everyone outside.

We are now on our transit home. I have very mixed feelings about being back on land and heading back to Humboldt County. I will be back in the comfort of my living room in 2 days. Of course, I am very excited to see my kids, visit with my friends, and take walks in the forests. Yet, there is a part of me that is already feeling a bit nostalgic for the friendships that I have built on board and the soothing rolling of the ocean. Though we worked 12 hour days, the people that I worked with made the time go by fast. Though the thought of spending three weeks on a boat with 30 total strangers might seem like an uncomfortable eternity, the days quickly blended together into a memorable event that I will not forget for a long time. We laughed at the littlest things, ate 3 meals a days together (excellent meals, I might add. Thank you so much Kimrie and Lenette!), made fun of bad movies, shared personal stories of struggles or hardships, showed off pictures of our children, and took moments to exercise (bring on the Plank Challenge!). We played cards, drew silly pictures, savored chocolate and fancy cheese, discussed the challenges that future generations face, and lengthed A LOT of fish. It is not often that one has an opportunity to spend 12 hours a day with the same people (total strangers, I might add), for 3 weeks straight, in a confined space.


Team Plank Oscar Dyson found ways to practice planking  in between hauls.

My only regret is not having made the time to sit and down and have an “interview” with every single person on the ship. It was through my interviews with people that I was struck by the unique story that each person has. I felt that it was not only important to listen to their history, but also to share it. I only intended to interview a few people on the ship, but once I got started, I felt like I couldn’t stop. The life of a seafaring person is under appreciated in our society. Yet, we rely on fishermen/women to provide the nation with all of the seafood that is eaten. We also rely on marine scientists, survey technicians, NOAA Corps, stewards, observers, NOAA Engineers, and deck hands to help us with this and to give us valuable information about the health of our oceans and marine life.

Through my conversations and interviews, I have learned that the life of a seafarer requires a lot of sacrifice. Life at sea has many challenges. Much of the crew spends many months at a time away from their families. They spend 24/7 rolling around on the ocean, in very small spaces. Most of time, the ocean is yielding and the gentle rocking of the boat can soothe one into a deep slumber. Yet, there are also times, when she roars her head a bit and reminds us that we are just a speck in the vastness of her depth and power.


Being a survey technician requires a lot of hard work.

The life of a seafarer, even a part-time one, is not for everyone.   They can’t just go to the store to go shopping, visit the dentist for a toothache, or go to the movies with a friend. They may miss important milestone events, such as their kid’s graduation or their parent’s 75th birthday. It can be trying to be separated from the daily musings of friends and family. There are days when all they see is gray sky and gray ocean. The Internet connection on a vessel is hit or miss (if you have one at all!) so they can’t easily stay connected with loved ones. It can begin to feel lonely and isolated.   I am grateful for all the seafarers, in whatever capacity they serve, who sacrifice so much, in the name of science, sustainable fishing, and the well being of our oceans.

In addition to the seafarers, I would also like to acknowledge the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Before embarking on my adventure as a Teacher At Sea, I had very little idea of what NOAA was and even less of an idea as to what they did. I knew that they gave me my weather forecast and that they studied the oceans and the atmosphere. I now know that NOAA is so much more than just that. In my first blog out at sea, I looked online to see what NOAA does. I wrote, “Its mission is to ‘understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources’. This is easily condensed into three words: Science, Service and Stewardship.” This makes so much more sense to me now. Without NOAA and its close to 12,000 scientists, engineers, and staff who work for them, we would not be able to study and monitor specific areas of our earth. It is through NOAA that we can continue to be informed and make the correct choices to be responsible stewards of this delicate planet.


Rick Towler designs many of the fishing  data programs and equipment that are used on the Oscar Dyson.

I know that I will continue to reflect on these last three weeks as I settle back into my own routine on land. As I become reacquainted with these routines, I know that my time as a Teacher At Sea will slowly settle further and further back into my bank of life- changing experiences and will become one of the endless memories that help make me who I am. I do hope though to keep some of the insights that I have gained on this research cruise in the forefront of my educational teachings. I look forward to sharing what I learned with my future fifth graders. Let us all continue to be good stewards and tread lightly.

I would like to thank everyone on the Oscar Dyson. Everyone including the CO, the XO, and all of the NOAA Corps officers, the Engineers, the deck crew, the survey technicians, the observers, the stewards, and the science team all made me feel very welcome and at home. Everyone was patient with me as I learned the ways of the seafarer and the ins and outs of the Oscar Dyson. I also want to thank everyone with the NOAA Teacher At Sea program for allowing this opportunity to happen for me and publishing my blog posts. I am eternally grateful.

Did You Know?

The Oscar Dyson has six onboard laboratories: a wet lab, dry lab, electronics/computer lab, bio lab, acoustics lab and hydrographics lab. The ship carries a multibeam echo sounder that collects information about the sea floor and the contents of the water column.


I even  found a Pi joke!


Interview with Bruce Mokiao

Lead Fisherman


Bruce’s smile and positive attitude were contagious.

What is your position here on the Oscar Dyson?

I am the lead fisherman on the boat.

How long have you been doing this?

I have been doing this for 16 years.

What got you interested in living your life on the sea?

Well, it was a couple of things. First, it was the Conservation Corps. That, and fishing. I didn’t know about NOAA until I was fishing commercially.   The person who picked up the fish that we brought back was a NOAA employee. I learned a lot about NOAA from him. I thought that it would be a good way to make a living and support my family.

What is your favorite part of the job?

My favorite part of the job is fishing, of course. I also like the data. It is all very interesting. I like science. I love this ship. I also really like the people that I work with. The crew makes a big difference in your day to day duties.

What is your job description?

I run the night shift. I supervise some of the other deck hands and I am the assistant to the chief botswain. I also mop and do general maintenance of things on the ship. I fix nets. I am basically in charge of running the fishing side of things.

 What are your hours?

I work from 2315 (11:15 pm) to 1145. I like running the night shift.

What are some of the challenges with your job?

Well, the environment is challenging. I am still getting used to living in Alaska. I am from Hawaii, so it is a big change for me. Alaska gets cold. I miss being with my family. That is also hard for me. And then, decision-making is hard. I have to think things through to make sure that the decisions I make on the ship will not have negative consequences. There is a lot of responsibility in my hands.

What motivates you every day?

My family. When my days get hard, I think about my family. My kids give my energy. I have 3. One is about to get married. I also think of the Chinese word for power, Yo Jer. I remind myself that I am “Yo jer” and that gives me the power to keep going.

Do you have any advice for my students?

Yes! Go to school. Go to a lot of school. Do what you can do to find opportunities. Find something that you love to do and things will fall into place. Live life to its fullest. Life does get hard sometimes, but that doesn’t mean that you should give up.


Thank you to EVERYONE that helped make this happen!


The sunrise next to Mt. Pavlof was a memorable event.

Marsha Lenz: We’re Going Fishing!, June 25, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Marsha Lenz

Aboard Oscar Dyson

June 8-28, 2017



The Observer, the Teacher At Sea, and the Senior Survey Tech take a moment to enjoy the view.

Mission: MACE Pollock Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: June 25, 2017


Weather from the Bridge

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The Shumagin Islands are a popular fishing spot for commercial fishing. (photo credit:

Latitude: 55 15.7 N

Longitude: 159 05.0 W

Time: 0700

Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles

Wind Direction: 180

Wind Speed: 17 Knots

Sea Wave Height: 2 feet

Sea Water Temperature: 9.9°C

Air Temperature: 9.2°C

Science and Technology Log


Controlling the DropCam requires concentration.

We have been in the Shumigan Islands, which are a group of 20 islands in the Aleutians East Borough south of the mainland.  It has been beautiful.  In between doing DropCams ( I even got to take over the controls once!) and fishing, we have been able to enjoy a few moments  outside taking in some of the amazing views. And then, it’s back to fishing!

The Fish Lab team (Ethan, Abigail, Katy or Meredith,  and I) are becoming very efficient in our roles in the lab.  I am getting much quicker at identifying the sex of fish and measuring their  lengths. It is really nice to have an efficient routine dialed in.

I had mentioned before that I wanted to go into detail about how the actual “fishing” works.  First, and foremost,  I am impressed with the amount of  teamwork that is required to do this.  There are about 12 people needed at various positions to make a fishing operation happen.  There are people in the Acoustics Lab, the Bridge, on the deck, and of course, in the Fish lab itself. I am reminded again about how important clear and concise communication is. Everyone talks to each other with radios and ensures that all steps of the process has been heard.



Making the Decision to Fish

The scientists spend a  lot of time in the  Acoustics lab (or The Cave). This is where they receive the feedback from the echo sounders in the water.  The monitors show images of backscatter that give the scientists a “picture” of what is going on in the water.  When they see something that they would like to fish, they call up to the Bridge and let them know that, “We’re going fishing!”.


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Deploying the Net

There are  many steps involved in getting the net into the water.  A survey technician will operate the winch. There are usually two deck hands to ensure that everything is deployed properly.  They always make sure that the pocket net, which catches smaller marine life, is secure and closed.  The CamTrawl, FS70 (or “turtle”),  SBE39, and ITI must also be attached to the net.  The CamTrawl takes pictures of everything coming into the net and the “turtle” takes a sound picture of the area in and around the net opening.


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Haul Back

Once the science team decides that they have what they would like in the net, they announce that its time to, “Haul back!” in the radio.  At this point, the winch operators and Deck hands start bringing in the net. The contents of the pocket net are given to the scientists for identification. The scientific equipment are also removed and downloaded. The fish that are in the net are  brought over to a bin next to the Fish lab with a crane. The nets are then carefully maneuvered back onto the net reel.


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Getting Ready

Once Abigail, Ethan, and I see that they are “hauling back”, we start getting ready for the Fish Lab.  We get dressed, put on music, and get out the necessary equipment.  The Fish lab is definitely wet, so we want to make sure that we have proper coverage!  If there is some extra time, we will see how long we can hold a plank for.  We are up to 2 minutes!


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Fish on the Table

Once the fish are placed in the bin by the crane outside of the Fish lab, we can control how fast it is brought onto the belt by the door. First, we separate anything that is not pollock from the catch.  We identify and record this data. Then,  we weigh the pollock. We separate the males and females.  The males go into the “bloke” bin and the females go into “sheilas” bin.  From there, each fish is measured.  The goal is to get a total of about 250 fish lengths.  Sometimes, there are more females than males, and sometimes there are more males than females. The length of each fish is recorded with an Ichthystick. This is a fish length board designed to electronically measure and record the length of each fish.  The Ichthystick was designed by the personnel at NOAA.   After the lengths are taken, we take anywhere from 15-50 pairs of otoliths from the pollock. The otoliths are preserved and used to determine the age of the fish.  Finally, when all the fish have been lengthed and otoliths taken, we clean up.  This does take some time, as no one wants a lingering fish smell around. There are numerous sprayers around  that are used to clean every nook and cranny of the lab.  Then, we clean ourselves up and wait for the next haul!

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Personal Log

Though we have been working 12 hours shifts, we do still manage to enjoy some of the spectacular views. I am amazed over and over again at how stunning and diverse the landscape is here. Sometimes the hills are covered in lush green, and sometimes there are snow covered mountains. When we can find a moment, we will just stand out on deck and take it all in. It truly is breathtaking.

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Interview with Abigail McCarthy


 What role do you play on this survey? 


Abigail waits for the fish to come.

I’m the “fish lab lead” scientist, which means that I manage all the wet data collection. I make sure all the fish we catch in our different types of nets are sampled the right way, that we’re processing our catch and recording samples properly and that everyone in the fish lab is having fun! I also do a lot of support work for the chief scientist in the acoustic lab, judging our acoustic data from the fancy scientific fish-finders, analyzing those data and making sure they link up right with all the information from the wet lab. I make sure we’re putting the right scientific equipment on the net every time we fish, do the camera drops, make maps with the information we’re collecting and write code for our analysis and data collection software too.

What inspired you to pursue this as a career?

I sort of slid into this sideways. I majored in biology in college and wanted to be a doctor, then I got interested in plant biology midway through my undergraduate degree. After I graduated from college I did a couple of internship/ technician jobs at research stations where I studied rare plants, bird/ plant interactions, and a few other things. I branched out and worked on a couple of bird projects (Hawaii for rare forest birds and avian malaria, and Puerto Rico for parrots and hawks), and then I got a job working on coastal plant ecology at the Bodega Marine Lab. All my friends there were doing marine science and they were having so much fun and doing such cool projects, and I got even more curious about marine science. Then I saw an opening for a sea turtle job in Costa Rica.  I speak Spanish well, and I had field experience, so I got hired there and worked on sea turtle nesting for almost a year, followed up by another sea turtle job with the Nature Conservancy in the Caribbean. All that nesting beach work made me wonder what was happening with turtles when they weren’t on the nesting beach, where did they go and what did they do in the open ocean?? So I applied to grad schools to study that question, and one of the best sea turtle biologists in the world is at Oregon State, where I went for my masters’ degree. If you find a cool project and a graduate professor who is good at getting funding, you can get paid to go to graduate school for marine biology. In grad school I spent a lot of time at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, OR, where I helped teach fisheries biology classes as part of my grad work. That got me interested in fish, fisheries data, and the way that science is used to inform the decisions that are made about commercial fisheries catch. So I applied to jobs at NOAA fisheries and got this one!

How long have you been working in this field?

I’ve been working at NOAA for 10 years, started grad school in 2003.

Are fisheries something that more people need to know about? Why?

Yes! Fish are the last truly wild source of food in the world. People can hunt to feed their families, but fisheries are the last place that huge quantities of protein come from a wild source without being farmed. If we don’t pay close attention to how many fish we catch, we run the risk of really screwing that up.

Do you think what do you is important? 

I do. I think it’s important because we need to know not just what’s going on with fisheries, but also we have to do our best to understand the ocean and how the ocean is changing as there are more and more people on our planet. The ocean covers over 70% of the surface of the earth, at it’s deepest it’s more than 36,000 feet deep (you’d have to run 6.8 miles straight down from the surface at the deepest place in the ocean before you’d hit the bottom). There are whole ecosystems that we barely understand because it’s a lot harder to study things when you can’t see them or measure them directly. Think about how easy it is to look at other people,pets, trees, or buildings. It’s not hard to tell how many people there are in the classroom with you or how big the school is, but imagine trying to do that 1500 feet below the surface of the ocean! We get to figure out ways to study fish and fisheries without being able to walk right up to a fish and measure it’s length or ask it how old it is, and we use that information to understand how the fish populations change, which adds to the information we know about the ocean as a whole.

How much of the year do you spend at sea?

Between two and three months, depends on the year. Usually one or two cruises in the winter time and one or two in the summer, each about 3 weeks long.

What interests you most about the data collected on this survey?

I like to think about how it fits into the big picture; both how it compares to all the data we’ve collected in this area in the past, and how it compares to what the commercial fishermen see here. I like to make maps of the data we collect too. I think it’s a great way to visualize information. I’m also really interested in the data we’re collecting with our drop cameras- fish pictures are always cool.

What is the most challenging part of your job?  The most rewarding?

There are a lot of rewarding parts of my job! One of the most rewarding is probably presenting the results of a completed survey- one where I sailed on the research cruise, was the lead analyst, and wrote the report (with lots of help from my colleagues, of course)- to the Plan Team. The Plan Team are the people who make the decisions about how many fish the commercial fishermen are allowed to catch each year, and I always enjoy telling them about our work, because we do excellent science and I’m proud of it.

Fisheries science, especially in Alaska, tends to be pretty male dominated. While I work with lots of remarkable people of both sexes with whom I enjoy spending time and from whom I have learned a lot, I wish I had more female colleagues. I also sometimes wish there were more women in leadership roles here.

What words of advice to you have for my students if they want to pursue a career in biology or the sciences?

Don’t let anyone tell you “No”. Take the math classes, take the biology and chemistry and physics when they’re offered, and if you don’t understand something, ask for help from anyone you can find. If you’re having trouble with math problems, find a teacher or a tutor to help you see it clearly. We always need more scientists- especially girls!

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The Bluefin tuna can migrate across oceans and can dive more than 4,000 feet. (photo credit: NOAA)

Marsha Lenz: Celebrating Science and the Solstice, June 21, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Marsha Lenz

Aboard Oscar Dyson

June 8-28, 2017

Mission: MACE Pollock Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: June 21, 2017


Though modern technology is used daily, one can still find traditional charting tools on the Bridge.

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 55 15.0 N

Longitude: 160 06.7 W

Time: 1300

Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles

Wind Direction: VAR

Wind Speed: LT

Sea Wave Height: <1 foot

Barometric Pressure: 1003.4 Millibars

Sea Water Temperature: 9.8°C

Air Temperature: 7.0°C

Science and Technology Log

            We have been surveying transect lines (sometimes we fish, sometimes we don’t). During the times that we aren’t fishing, I find myself looking out at the ocean A LOT! During these quiet times on the ship, I am reminded of how large the oceans are. I found a quiet window to sit by in the Chem Lab and enjoy watching as the waves dance off of the side of the ship.


Abigail enjoys singing to the fish.

During some of these times when we are not collecting data from fish, identifying species from the DropCam, or preparing for the next haul, I find myself reading, which is a luxury all in itself. A friend of mine lent me to book to read and as I was reading the other day, the author quoted Jules Verne, author of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Verne said, “Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.” I found this to be fitting for what I am doing on this survey, for the three weeks that I am a Teacher At Sea.   Though I am surrounded by trained and educated professionals, I have realized that mistakes still happen and are something to be expected.   They happen regularly. Often, actually. And, it’s a good thing that they do. They are important for learning. When humans make mistakes, hopefully, we can adjust our actions/behaviors to reduce the chances of that same “mistake” from happening again. When applied to science, the same idea is also true. When  we can collect data from something that we are studying, we learn about the ways that it interacts with its surroundings. Through these findings, we not only learn more about what we are studying, but then take measures to protect its survival.

We had a real experience like this happen just the other day. For days, the “backscatter” was picking up images of fish that the scientists didn’t think were pollock on the bottom of the ocean. Backscatter is what the scientists use to “see” different groups of fish and quantify how many are in the water. The ship uses various echosounders.  Several times, the science team decided to collect fish samples from these areas.  Every time that they decided to “go fishing”, we pulled up pollock. The team was baffled. They had a hypothesis as to why they were not catching what they thought they saw on the backscatter. They thought that it was rockfish that were hanging around rocks, but the pollock were being caught as the net went down and came back up.  Finally, after several attempts of not catching anything but pollock, they decided to put down the DropCam and actually try to see what was going on down there.

At that point, the Chem lab was filled with scientists. Everyone wanted to see what was going to show up on the monitor. The NOAA Corps Commanding Officer even came to see what was going to show up on the monitor.  The room will filled with excitement.


Abigail steers the DropCam and watches the monitor simultaneously.

We see rockfish!

          It was just as they predicted!  The rockfish were hanging out in the rocks.  It was a moment of great satisfaction for the scientists. They were able to identify some of the fish on the backscatter that was causing them so much confusion! Yay, science!


This is a pollock!

Later in the day, we went fishing and collected the usual data (sex, length, weight, etc.) from the pollock.  There are usually 4 of us at a time in the Fish lab.  We are getting into a routine in the lab and I am getting more familiar with my responsibilities and duties. I start by controlling the door release, which controls the amount of fish released onto the conveyor belt. After all of the fish have been weighed, I separate the females and males.  Once that has been done, I take the lengths of a sample of the fish that we caught. When I finish, I assist Ethan and Abigail in removing and  collecting the otoliths from a selected fish sample.  Then, its clean-up time.  Though we all have appropriate gear on, I somehow still end up having fish scales all over me.  Imagine that!

Every time that we “go fishing”, a “pocket net” is also deployed.  This is a net that has finer mesh and is designed to catch much smaller marine life.  On this haul, we caught squid, age “zero” pollock, and isopods.

In the evening, we headed towards Morzhovoi Bay.  There, we were greeted by a pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins.  They spent some time swimming next to us.  When they discovered that we were not that interesting, they swam off.  They did leave us though with a great sense of awe and appreciation (and a few great pictures!).

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Personal Log

Happy Summer Solstice!  Today is the longest day of the year!  We have had some spectacular days. We were all excited as we got up this morning to welcome the rising of the sun. We woke up and were holding position in front of Mt. Pavlof.  We saw the sunrise and went up to the  Flying Bridge to do some morning yoga.  After a wonderful breakfast of a bagel with cream cheese, salmon, Larrupin sauce, and Slug Slime, I went back up to the Bridge to get a full 360 degree view of the bay.  There I saw a humpback whale swimming around.  This will definitely be a summer solstice to remember!

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Did You Know?

A humpback whale is about the size of a school bus and weighs about 40 tons! They also communicate with each other with songs under the water.

sidenote: I know I wrote in my last blog that I was going to discuss the fishing process today, but there were so many other amazing things that happened that it is going to have to wait until next time. Sorry!


Marsha Lenz: The Octopus and the CTD, June 21, 2017


NOAA Teacher at Sea

Marsha Lenz

Aboard Oscar Dyson

June 8-28, 2017


Mission: MACE Pollock Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: June 21, 2017


Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 54 38.9 N

Longitude: 161 39.2 W

Time: 0800

Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles

Wind Direction: 185

Wind Speed: 9 Knots

Sea Wave Height: 3-4 foot swell

Barometric Pressure: 1003.4 Millibars

Sea Water Temperature: 7.4°C

Air Temperature: 7.0°C

Science and Technology Log

Every morning when I come to start my shift, the scientists on the previous shift are in the middle of doing “DropCam’s.”   The DropCam is a camera that drops down to the ocean floor and takes pictures of what is going on down there. We have been getting some amazing pictures from the DropCam. The camera goes down about 150 meters (depending on the depth of the ocean floor). Sometimes, the ocean is very sandy and has very little (that we can see) activity going on. Other times, the video feed is full of fish and other marine life. We have seen so much diversity on the ocean floor.

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Since being on the Oscar Dyson, we now have seen two octopuses on the boat (well, one was on the DropCam); one was in the juvenile stage and one in the adult stage of life. I’d like to take a moment to talk about how amazing an octopus is. First of all, let’s talk about how they can change color to match their surroundings. They use special pigment cells in their skin to change colors. They have the ability to even blend into patterned rocks and corrals. When we caught the baby octopus, we saw it change its color to white to blend into the white cup we were holding it in.

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An octopus can fit through spaces as small as the size of its beak (photo credit:

They are considered to be very intelligent animals. They have been known to be able to open jars, escape from enclosures, solve mazes, and squirt water at targets. They have the ability to squeeze through things that are as small as the size of their beaks. In aquariums, they have also been known to mimic (and actually learn from) other octopuses.

Even though they can get up to be 16 feet long and weigh up to 110 pounds, they only live to be about 4 years old. That is a very short lifespan. After the females lay their eggs (they lay about 100,00 eggs), they brood over them for many months. During this time, they often do not eat. She protects her eggs for 6-7 months, and then she dies shortly after they are born.

When they are looking over their eggs they do eat, they primarily eat shrimp, fish, clams, and lobsters. They have a beak-like mouth that they can use to puncture and tear fish. They have also been known to eat sharks and birds. During the first 3 months of their lives, they eat plankton. Plankton are small and microscopic organisms that drift or float in the sea. They consist of diatoms, protozoans, small crustaceans, and the eggs and larval stages of larger animals.


After the last DropCam is retrieved, a CTD (Conductivity-Temperature-Depth) is usually deployed, which collects data from various depths of the oceans. The primary function of the CTD is to measure the conductivity and temperature of the water column at various depths. Conductivity is related to the salinity, or saltiness, of the water. Studying the salinity of the water is a very critical part of studying the ocean, which is made up of salt water. The conductivity, along the temperature and depth, provide scientists with profiles of various parts of the ocean.

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The CTD is attached to a larger frame called a rosette.   This holds various water-sampling bottles and other sensors that measure the physical and chemical properties of the water at various depths. With this information, scientists can make inferences about changes that they may be seeing in the data and this can give them a better understanding about the oceans.  The data collected daily from the CTD is analyzed by Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory at the end of the survey.

Personal Log

Things on the boat are definitely becoming more routine. We continue to work in 12-hour shifts (mine starting at 4 am). The days consist of getting up, having coffee and a bagel, coming down to the Chem Lab to relieve the night shift, where we take over doing DropCams.  After our DropCams, we get to watch the sunrise or other spectacular views.

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We then will go up for breakfast at 7. I have really been enjoying having someone else (Lenette and Kimrie) not only make meals for me every day, but also do my dishes. What a luxury! After breakfast, we’ll “go fishing” and suit up to analyze the catch. (I’ll go into details about in the next blog) and then we’ll go have lunch. After lunch, we brainstorm the plans for the afternoon and take care of small projects. Before we know it, 4 pm rolls around and the next crew starts their shift.


Chief Scientist, Darin Jones, shows me how to conduct a trawl.

I make it to dinner at 5, and then I slowly make my way back to the stateroom.  If it is  nice out, I will go up to the bridge to look for marine animals or walk around looking at the amazing landscape.  I find myself extremely tired around 7 and get ready for bed.  I am usually asleep by 8. It’s “good night” and sweet dreams for me!


Despite the occasional wind, the views are breathtaking.

Did You Know?

 The oldest octopus fossil is from an animal that lived 296 million years ago — millions of years before the dinosaurs lived.

Question for my class:

 What is the name of this weather instrument?


This year we learned about various tools to help measure weather. I saw this on the bridge of the ship. It measures the speed and direction of the wind. Do you remember what it is called?

 answer:  A  ___ ___  M  ___ ___  E  ___ ___  R                                                                                      

Interview with Darin Jones


Darin analyzes backscatter from a recent transect.

What role do you play on this survey?

I am the Field Party Chief which means that I am the member of the science party that is responsible for making sure as much of our original objective gets completed as possible and I also serve as the main contact between the officers that operate the ship and the science party when important decisions or changes in the plan occur.

What inspired you to pursue this as a career?

I was a contract observer for the National Marine Fisheries Service following college and dreamed about one day working directly for them.  I thought that would be an awesome career and I feel lucky to have had my dreams realized.

How long have you been working in this field?

I have been in my current position for 10 years but have been in the marine biology field for the last 25 years.

What sort of training/education did you receive?

I got my Undergraduate degree in Marine Biology and a Masters of Science in Fisheries Resources.  I was also an observer aboard commercial fishing vessels for 5 years which provided invaluable sea going experience and knowledge.

Are fisheries something that more people need to know about? Why?

I think fisheries and the health of the oceans is something that people should know more about because they are vital to life on land and important indicators of the status and health of our climate and planet. The oceans are the heart of the earth and drive many other processes.


What interests you most about the data collected on this survey?

The data that we collect is directly used to sustainably manage the pollock fishery so I am proud to contribute to that.  It’s neat to be able to track a fish population as it grows through the years and watch how many survive from one year to the next. We are also collecting interesting data on the percentage of certain rockfish species in different types of habitat that can be used to help determine the abundance of those species.

What is the most challenging part of your job?  The most rewarding?

The most challenging part of my job is being away from my family for long periods of time. Another challenging aspect is the time management of planning and executing the survey objectives in a finite amount of time. Plans have to be constantly monitored and adjusted depending on weather, equipment malfunction, and other unexpected circumstances. The most rewarding part of my job is knowing that I am contributing to the scientific knowledge that is helping to sustainably manage fisheries.

What words of advice do you have for my students if they want to pursue a career is biology or the sciences?

Math skills are a very important part of biology and the sciences so learn as much as you can.  Also getting experiences in fields that you are interested in is very important so volunteer with organizations that interest you and unexpected opportunities will open up.


 What is your favorite marine animal?

I think my favorite marine animal is the Pacific viperfish.  It is a creature from the deep and has very long teeth and looks very ferocious, however they only grow to a maximum of about a foot long, but I’ve only seen specimens that were about 2 inches long. It amazes me how creatures can survive in the dark depths and immense pressures of the deep ocean.

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The Pacific viperfish can be found 200-5,000 feet below the ocean surface. (photo credit: Earthguide & Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

Do you have anything else that you would like to add or share?

Do your homework and get all the extra credit that you can, kid!



Marsha Lenz: Water and Superstitions, June 16, 2017


 NOAA Teacher at Sea

Marsha Lenz

Aboard Oscar Dyson

June 8-28, 2017


Mission: MACE Pollock Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: June 16, 2017


Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 53 32.9 N

Longitude: 164. 02.5 W

Time: 1300

present weather: clear

Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles

Wind Direction: 102

Wind Speed: 13 Knots

Sea Wave Height: 4-6 foot swell

Barometric Pressure: 1002.8 Millibars

Sea Water Temperature: 7.8°C

Air Temperature: 8.0°C


We have been getting great views of the islands.

Science and Technology Log

 For the past we few days, we have productive days! We have been able to see great sunrises AND  bring in hauls of fish, use the DropCam to take pictures of the ocean floor and associated fishes, and collect data with the CTD. I have become more and more familiar with some of the many components of the technology on board.

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As I was brushing my teeth this morning when I woke up to get ready for my 4 o’clock shift, many questions started running through my still-half-asleep brain. Where did the water that I was brushing my teeth with even come from? It wasn’t salt water. It was drinkable water. It got me thinking about how much potable, or drinkable, water we need to have onboard the ship for 31 people for 22 days. Everyone needs to drink water, take showers, and do laundry. Water is also used for cooking, cleaning, and cooling engines. If you have ever tried to do any of those things with salt water, you’ll know that it doesn’t work very well.

I did some investigating to figure out how the ship is able to hold so much potable water for such a long time. I talked to one of the engineers, Nick Cuellar, to get the facts. He took me on a tour of the nooks and crannies of the ship. It turns out that the ship actually has a water maker. I asked him how it works.

First, salt water is taken and pumped through an evaporator that has Titanium plates. Titanium is sturdy and resistance to erosion. This makes it ideal for salt water. The evaporator separates the drinkable water from the parts that we don’t want to drink (like salt, for example). After that, it is sent to the “Brominator”, where it is treated for human consumption.   It is then stored in tanks on the ship. There are two tanks on the ship, each holding 450 gallons of water. According to Nick, on average, a ship this size uses about 1,000 gallons of water a day, so it works out to be a very sustainable method of water consumption. The pumps work non-stop, so sometimes, when more water is being made than being consumed, they need to turn the taps on and keep “water running” to allow for space in the tanks.


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Some people on the boat like to bring in their own water from land to drink while onboard. Though I did bring on some cans of bubbling water (for a treat), I have no problem filling up my water bottle every morning with some ice and water and staying hydrated that way. I am grateful to have the technology of a water maker on this board this ship!

Personal Log

I have been spending more time getting to know more of the other people on board. We have, of course, had the usual “get-to-know-you” questions (Where are you from? What do you do when you’re not here? What’s the weather going to be like in the next few days? Did you see the sunrise this morning?) Once we get settled and become more comfortable with each other, more interesting conversions start to emerge. Yesterday, during a breakfast of coffee, eggs, hash browns, and pancakes, the topic of sailors’ superstitions came up. Many superstitions are outdated, and many people that spend extended time on sea aren’t too concerned with them. However, I was told right away to NEVER whistle on the Bridge (the room where the commands are given and from where the ship is controlled), because I would whistle up a storm. I was also told by one of the scientists that people also never set sail on a Friday because that would be bad luck. The list of superstitions goes on and on. Some that came up over and over again were:

  • Don’t bring bananas on board
  • If you had red hair, you were considered to be bad luck on the ship. The same was true if you were a woman.
  • It was bad luck for one crewmember to pass the salt directly to another person. One had to place it on the table before another person could pick it up.
  • One is not supposed to “knock on wood” to avoid a jinx, but rather “touch iron”.
  • It is unlucky to kill an albatross.
  • Though it is not a superstition, many sailors will tell you the stories, or myths, about the “Kraken,” the 200 foot octopus that capsizes boats. (Remember Pirates of the Caribbean?)

The Oscar Dyson had its very own superstition before satellite TV came aboard. It was believed that the Dyson could not set sail on the day that the Super bowl played. Without satellite TV, this meant that no one was able to watch it. This, of course, meant that something was going to break. It happened on a number of occasions. Thank goodness for satellite TV. Now the crew on board can watch the game and nothing breaks (Touch iron!).

Did You Know?

Oceans are amazing!

Here are some cool facts that you probably didn’t know.

  • The tides in the ocean are caused by the gravitational pull from the Sun and the Moon on the ocean water.
  • There are over 25,000 different islands in the Pacific Islands alone.
  • Though scientists have discovered thousands of known marine life forms, they believe that there could be millions of life forms in the oceans.

Animals We’ve Seen

We have seen many animals in the past few days. We have seen three different kinds of albatross. Albatross are sea birds that have inspired sailors for centuries. A famous poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, was written in 1834. He illustrates how a sailor killed an albatross (speaking of superstitions) and how this changed the course of the mariner’s life. (I have included it in the link above if you would like to listen to it).

We have seen the Short tailed albatross, which are an endangered species. We also saw a Black-footed Albatross,  Northern Fulmar, and a Laysan Albatross. Did you know that the albatross spend a lot of time on the water. Unfortunately, they are also in danger. Longline fishing boats have hooks that can kill up to 100,000 large seabirds every year.

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The most fascinating thing that we caught was a baby Giant Pacific Octopus. Did you know that the largest size octopus recorded was 30 feet across and weighed more than 600 pounds (no wonder they were in so many sailor stories!)? The one that we caught wasn’t more than an inch in length. During the time that it was in our temporary custody, we got to see it shoot out its ink, change colors (twice), and attach itself it hard surfaces.


These babies (one is blended into the white background) were not more than just a few months old.


Octopus usually live 4-6 years. (photo credit: Monterey Bay Aquarium)


It has been an awesome few days, full of learning and discovery! I can definitely see why there are so many stories and superstitions around these amazing sea creatures!


Interview with Katy McGinnis

Survey Technician


Katy helps operate equipment on the Oscar Dyson

What is your position on the Oscar Dyson?

I am the Senior Survey Tech on the Oscar Dyson

What does a Survey Tech do?

We aid the scientists with their oceanographic and fishery research by performing observations, measurements, and calculations. I operate and deploy various types of research equipment, such as the FS70, EK60, and CTD. I also manage shipboard scientific computing systems (SCS) and process oceanographic or fisheries data.

How long have you been on the Oscar Dyson?

I have been working on the Oscar Dyson since May of 2016.

Have you worked on other ships as well?

I was on an internship on Delaware II for 22 days. I was onboard to assist the Deck and scientists. That’s where I learned about what NOAA does and their mission. I have been supporting them ever since.

What kind of training did you receive before working as a Survey Tech?

I have an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science with a focus on Marine Biology. In order to become a Survey Tech, one needs to have an undergraduate degree and have some boat experience. I grew up around boats. And I like boats.

 What are the most exciting/rewarding parts of your job?

There is a lot of work that we do every day. It is not easy. I work 12-hour shifts. The most rewarding part is at the end of the survey when we get to see all of everyone’s work come together. The chief scientist creates a presentation for everyone who helped work on the crew with all of the results of the data that we collected. It is really cool to see the success of everyone’s hard work coming together. I like being able to see the science of it all and how it is implemented and applied to helping protect ecosystems.

 What are the most challenging parts of the job?

There are many challenging parts of this job as well. It is hard to be away from my family for so long. Being away from my friends and my dog for 9 months at a time is hard for me sometimes. I like my dog. Moving around and having short in ports adds additional stress.

 What is your favorite marine animal?

My favorite animal is the Whale Shark. I have so much respect for them. They are these huge creatures that only eat plankton. They could cause so much damage to their surroundings, just by their size alone, but they don’t. That’s awesome!



A Whale Shark swims in the Maldives.  (photo

Marsha Lenz: And The Hauls Begin, June 14, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Marsha Lenz

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

June 8–28, 2017


Mission:Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: June 14, 2017


Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 53 24.35 N

Longitude: 166 58.2 W

Time: 0700

Visibility: 8 Nautical Miles

Wind Direction: 095

Wind Speed: 25 Knots

Sea Wave Height: 7-9 foot swell

Barometric Pressure: 1003.4 Millibars

Sea Water Temperature: 7.2°C

Science and Technology Log

I know that I have already talked about how much science and technology there is on board, but I am amazed again and again by not only the quantity of it, but also the quality of it. I am also impressed by the specialized education and training that the scientists and rest of the crew have in their designed roles on this ship. They know how to utilize and make sense of it all. I keep trying to understand some of basics,  but often I just find myself standing in the back of the room, taking it all in.

We brought in our first haul on Monday.  I was given an orientation of each station, put on my fish gear, and got to work. I was shown how to identify the males from the females and shown how to find the fork length of the fish. Finally, I also practiced removing the otoliths from the fish. I finally felt like I was being useful.


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I woke up on Tuesday (6/13) to start my 4:00 am shift. After some coffee and a blueberry muffin, I headed down to the “Chem lab.” We had arrived at the Islands of the Four Mountains in the night and were now heading back to start on the transect lines. The scientists had just dropped down the Drop Camera to get an idea of what was happening on the ocean floor. The camera went down to 220 meters to get an idea of what was happening down there. The video images that were being transmitted were mind-blowing. Though it was black and white footage, the resolution had great detail. We were able to see the bottom of the ocean floor and what was hanging out down there. The science crew was able to identity some fish and even some coral. One doesn’t really think of Alaska when one thinks of coral reefs. However, there are more species of coral in the Aleutians than in the Caribbean. That’s a strange thought. According to the World Wildlife Fund, there are 50 species of coral in the Caribbean. Scientists believe that there are up to 100 species of coral in the coral gardens of Alaska that are 300 to 5,000 feet below the surface.


The DropCam took images of life on the ocean floor.



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Personal Log

Monday, June 12

We have been making progress in getting to the Island of Four Mountains. We should be arriving around noon. At this point the scientists have still been getting everything ready for the first haul. The crew has been working hard to fine-tune the equipment ready for data gathering. I have been sitting in “The Cave” at various times, while they have been working around the clock, brainstorming, trouble-shooting, and sharing their in-depth knowledge with each other (and at times, even with me).

In the afternoon, I was asked to help a member of the Survey Crew sew a shark sling. I was not sure what that entailed, but was willing to help in any way possible. When I found Meredith, she was in the middle of sewing straps onto the shark sling. Ethan and I stepped in to help and spent the rest of the afternoon sewing the sling. The sling is intended to safely return any sharks that we catch (assuming we catch any) back to the water.


We spent many hours sewing the straps onto the sling.


The sling is intended to safely remove any shark we catch from the boat.

Tuesday, June 13

I woke up at 3am, grabbed a coffee and then made my way down to the Chem Lab. After downloading the footage from the DropCam and getting a few still pictures, we started identifying what we saw. Using identification key, we were able to identify the fish and some coral. We saw what we thought was an anemone. We spent about and hour to an hour and a half trying to identify the species. We had no luck. Finally, Abigail, with her scientific wisdom, decided to look into the coral species a bit deeper. And then, AHA!, there it was. It turned out to be a coral, rather than an anemone. It was a great moment to reflect on. It was a reminder that, even in science, there is a bit of trial and error involved.   I have also observed that the science, actually everyone else on the ship, is always prepared to “trouble shoot” situations. In the moments where I have been observing in the back of the room, I have been able to take in many of the subtleties that take place on a research vessel like this. Here are some things that I have noticed.
1) Things will go wrong, 2) They always take longer than expected to fix, 3) Sometimes there are things that we don’t know (and that’s ok!) 4) Patience is important, 5) Tolerance is even more important, and 6) Clear communication is probably the most important of all. These have been good observations and reminders for me to apply in my own life.

Animals (And Other Cool Things) Seen Today

I feel very fortunate that I had a chance to participate in the DropCam process.  We were able to identify:

  • Blackspotted rockfish
  • Feathery plumarella
  • Basketstar
  • Pink seafan
  • Grooved hydrocoral
  • Anthomastus mushroom coral


Did You Know?

In the NOAA Corps, an Ensign (ENS) is a junior commissioned officer. Ensigns are also part of the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, and other maritime services. It is equivalent to a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, the lowest commissioned officer, and ranking next below a lieutenant, junior grade.

Interview with ENS Caroline Wilkinson

What is your title aboard this ship?

I serve as a Junior Officer aboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson.

How long have you been working with the NOAA Corps?

Since July 2015 when I entered Basic Officer Training Class (BOTC) at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT. We train there for 5 months before heading out to our respective ship assignments. I arrived on the Dyson in December of 2015 and have been here ever since.

What sparked your interest in working for them?

I first learned of the NOAA Corps during a career fair my senior year of college at the University of Michigan. I was attracted by all of the traveling, the science mission of the organization, and the ability to serve my country.

What are some of the highlights of your job?

We see some incredible things out here! The Alaskan coastline is stunningly beautiful and there are more whales, sea birds, seals, otters, etc. than we can count. The crew and scientists are incredibly hardworking and supremely intelligent. They are a joy to work with and I love being able to contribute to highly meaningful science.

What are some of challenging parts of your job?

We spend over 200 days at sea each year and operate in remote areas. It is difficult to keep in touch with loved ones and most of us only see family and friends once or twice a year, if we are lucky. That is a huge sacrifice for most people and is absolutely challenging.

How much training did you go through?

The NOAA Corps Officers train for 5 months at the US Coast Guard Academy alongside the Coast Guard Officer Candidates. It is a rigorous training program focusing on discipline, officer bearing, and seamanship. Once deployed to the ship, we serve 6-8 months as a junior officer of the deck (JOOD) alongside a qualified Officer of the Deck (OOD). This allows us to become familiar with the ship, get more practice ship handling, and learn the intricacies of trawling.

What are your main job responsibilities?

Each Junior Office wears many hats. Each day I stand eight hours of bridge watch as OOD driving the ship and often instructing a JOOD. I also serve as the Medical Officer ensuring all crew and scientists are medically fit for duty and responding to any illness, injury, or emergency. I am the Environmental Compliance Officer and ensure the ship meets all environmental standards for operations with regards to things like water use and trash disposal. As the Navigation Officer, I work with the Captain and the Chief Scientist to determine where the ship will go and how we will get there. I then create track lines on nautical charts to ensure we are operating in safe waters. In my spare time I manage some small aspects of the ship’s budget and organize games, contests, outings, etc. as the morale officer.

Is there anything else that you would like to add or share about what you do?

I am really enjoying my time working for NOAA and in the NOAA Corps; I could not have asked for a better career. It is a challenging and exciting experience and I encourage anyone interested to reach out to a recruiting officer at


Marsha Lenz: Calibrating and Acclimating, June 11, 2017


NOAA Teacher at Sea

Marsha Lenz

Aboard NOAA ship Oscar Dyson

June 8 – 28, 2017

Mission: MACE Pollock Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: June 11, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 54 38.9 N

Longitude: 161 39.2 W

Time: 0800

Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles

Wind Direction: 185 T

Wind Speed: 9 Knots

Sea Wave Height: 3-4 foot swell

Barometric Pressure: 1003.4 Millibars

Sea Water Temperature: 7.4°C

Air Temperature: 7.0°C

Science and Technology Log

The equipment has been calibrated and we are off again. We set out Friday afternoon (June 9) and have left the calm of Kalsin Bay. The swell is a bit bigger now and the boat now is rolling a bit more. I am still getting used to walking from one place to another holding onto the railings and finding myself taking twice an many steps to get someplace. From the time we left Kalsin Bay, it should take us 2.5 days to get to the Islands of Four Mountains. From there we will be conducting acoustic surveys on transect lines all the way back towards Kodiak.

DY1706 leg 1 transects

A map of the transects where the surveys will be conducted. Our starting point is the Islands of Four Mountains.

There are 31 crew members on the ship right now. As I mentioned before, they all play a different role. The NOAA corps officers work primarily on the Bridge. They are of making sure that the ship goes where it needs to go and that it is done in a safe manner. The Engineering staff is in charge of making sure that everything works.   They oversee the operation of engines, pumps, propeller shafts, electronic equipment, and auxiliary equipment. The Stewards have a very important task of keeping us happy and fed and making sure that we don’t get “hangry”. The role of Survey is to assist the scientists, and make sure that everything is prepared to do the surveys. The Electronic Technician (ET) is in charge of making sure that everything works when it comes to electronics. When I first came aboard, I gave him my devices so that he could hook them up to the ship’s wireless Internet system. The Deck crew’s responsibility is to safely deploy the fishing nets and scientific collection equipment to make sure all of the operations on the ship are running smoothly. Finally, the Scientists are in charge of collecting the data and coming up with reports to summarize what they have collected. The Observers are here to help the scientists collect biological data from the catch. And, on this leg of the research, there is me. I am here to learn, help whenever possible, and get my hands dirty!

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Every morning, the Operations Officer sends out a Plan of the Day to the crew.

 I have been enjoying getting to know the NOAA Corps, the additional crew, and the scientists. On this cruise, I will be assisting the scientists as they collect their data. The science team consists of 5 members. Additionally, the two observers and survey crew will be assisting with the surveys. The scientists have a wide range of experience, but most of them are Fisheries Biologists.

We will be working in shifts of 12 hours. I will be working from 4 am to 4 pm every day. We have slowly been acclimating ourselves to the new sleep schedule. This is a bit of a problem though as it is light for so long. The sun rises just after 6 am and sets just after 11 pm. It makes it a bit challenging to think about being tired when it is still light out.

During the 12 hours that we have off, there is some down time. Obviously, some of that time we will be sleeping. The quarters are very tight and everything has to be stored so that once we hit rough waters things don’t get tossed around everywhere. Each stateroom has a double bunk. I will not be sharing my room, so I am very lucky to have a room to myself. Most people share a room and have opposite shifts, making it essential to be quiet when entering and exiting during times that one is off-shift to avoid waking one’s roommate.

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Safety is a very important part of the operation of this vessel. During the fist 24 hours, we had a series of safety drills within 24 hours of leaving the port. Everyone on board has a role to play should an emergency happen. Signs are posted all over the ship. The most eventful drill was one where we had to don our immersion suits. The suits are designed to keep one warm AND afloat should we become more familiar with the waters surrounding us.


An Immersion Suit is designed to keep one warm in frigid waters.

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Personal Log

Many of you may be wondering about the food, and if I am getting enough of it. The answer is yes! The galley makes three meals a day and they make sure that we have a lot of options to choose from. There are always snacks around, including a salad bar, an espresso machine, and even ice cream! Meals times are at specific times, and they are a great opportunity to get to know other members on the ship.

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Lenette and Kimrie do a great job of feeding all 31 of us, for three meals a day.

Feeding 31 people, 3 meals a day, for 3 weeks is not easy task. Shopping and planning for feeding that many people is even harder. Remember, it is not an option to go to the store really quick because you forgot to bring the butter or eggs on board.   It requires detailed planning for many weeks before hand. Now, after the stewards have planned all of the shopping for the journey, they then have to get it all aboard (this trip’s shopping list came to ~$8,000). Sometimes a “fire line” is set up to carry the delivered food from the deck to the galley, but this time around, they used technology to help them by lowering the pallets of food through a hatch near the storage area with a crane.

Did You Know?

Did you know that (almost) all of the garbage created on the ship is incinerated while on board? That means that any garbage, except for aerosols, cans, and glass bottles are burned on the ship.

 New Terms/Phrases

Observer- Observers are professionally trained biological scientists gathering data first-hand on commercial fishing boats to support science, conservation, and management activities. The data they collect are used to monitor federal fisheries, assess fish populations, set fishing quotas, and inform management. Observers also support compliance with fishing and safety regulations.

Interview with Ethan Beyer



Ethan prepares vials for the otoliths that we will be collecting.

What is your position on the Oscar Dyson?

My position on the OD is a fisheries research biologist. This means that when catch is brought aboard, I will be responsible (along with others in the science crew) for collecting sex, length, weight, maturity, ovary, and otolith data.

Where did you go to school?

I went to school at Oregon State University where I completed my undergraduate degree in Natural Resources, with a specialization in Fish and Wildlife Conservation. Go Beavers!

What is the role of an observer and what do you enjoy most about your work?

My regular job is a Fisheries Observer for the North Pacific Ground fish and Halibut Observer Program. I work on commercial fishing vessels in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea collecting samples of what the vessel catches. This data is then used collectively with data from MACE/RACE to help manage fisheries. I would have to say that my favorite part of that job is seeing some of the interesting creatures that most people have never heard about or seen.

Have you had much experience at sea?

I have been a Fisheries Observer for the last 2 and half years after completing college. During the summer in my last three years of school I worked as a deckhand for a charter fishing company in Seward, Alaska.

How many months out of the year are you out at sea?

Over the course of the year, I average about 8 months deployed as an observer in Alaska. The program that I work for covers the small boat fleet that only requires having an observer for a fraction of their fishing trips. Roughly half of the 8 months deployed is actually spent at sea.

What are the most challenging aspects of being at sea so much? What is most rewarding?

The most challenging aspect of being at sea is being away from family and friends back at home. Another challenging aspect of the job is working alongside commercial fishing crews. Over the course of a 3-month deployment, observers in my program will average working on 5-10 boats. Each vessel and crew is unique, and the approach used in getting along with the crew, sampling, and adjusting to operations on a specific vessel is something that you learn to adapt to quickly.

The most rewarding part of the job for me is at the end of my assignment on a vessel, hearing the captain say that he thought I got along well with his crew, and that he would request to have me again when he gets another observer (even though, logistically, it would be unlikely, as we move from vessel to vessel and port to port frequently). Aside from collecting the required data from each vessel, it is important to be a positive, professional representative of the Observer Program, so that fishing crews don’t view observers as the enemy.

What is one of the most memorable experiences that you have had at sea?

As a fisheries observer, there are many things that we cannot share about our experiences at sea, due to conflicts of interest. However, the most memorable days at sea are usually the ones where the weather cooperates, there is a clear view of the beautiful scenery of coastal Alaska, and fishing is good. Every once in a while, it takes a storm at sea to remind yourself that the days of good weather are to be cherished.

What is your favorite marine creature?

My favorite marine creatures are whales. Many times while I am on a vessel, I have to refrain from showing my excitement when I see them, as they are typically associated with hampering the vessel’s fishing effort. Whales will often consume the catch of commercial longline fisherman.